Victoria’s police chief has issued a stern warning to his members that misconduct and criminal behaviour will not be tolerated following a recent spate of “extremely troubling” cases among its ranks.
In a memo sent to officers this week, Chief Commissioner Shane Patton slammed the behaviour of a select few employees, citing the impact the cases had on the public’s faith in the force.
Mr Patton had flagged a new cultural reform program for Victoria Police employees, set to be rolled out across the organisation later this year.
He advised members of the upcoming changes this week, days after the arrest of two off-duty officers following a police pursuit involving an unregistered Mercedes-Benz in Melbourne’s CBD at the weekend.
In his email, Mr Patton labelled a string of recent incidents – including cases of bullying and harassment amongst colleagues – as “unacceptable” and “very concerning” and vowed to support staff who call out poor behaviour.
“If anyone thinks they are above the law, my message is simple: you have no place in this organisation. I will not turn a blind eye to this type of behaviour,” he wrote.
One of the two men – a 28-year-old senior constable from the North West Metro region – is expected to be charged with drug offences after he and four others fled on foot after running a red light in an unregistered car.
The second man, a police recruit, was suspended with pay with investigations ongoing.
They follow a string of other public cases that have sullied the force since Mr Patton took over the top job in mid-2020, vowing to return to a strict back to basics policing model.
It also comes as the state continues its major recruitment campaign which aims to attract more than 3000 new members.
Former Victoria Police chief commissioner Kel Glare said recruiting standards had dropped dramatically over the past 20 years, and warned the force must be selective to ensure it only employs people of the highest calibre, with bad conduct tarnishing the entire police force.
But he backed Mr Patton to make the sweeping changes required. “He’s not one that would tolerate misconduct in any way, shape or form… But it’s going to be difficult for him to change attitudes…
“Being chief commissioner is like steering a big ship. You turn the wheel now and further down the line things change.”
Mr Glare was the force’s first assistant commissioner of internal investigations and went on to become chief commissioner from 1987 to 1992.
Now chairman of Community Advocacy Alliance, he said Victoria Police had always maintained a hard line of prosecuting any member found to have broken the law.
“Victoria Police have always chased their own crooks. In my time I spent $42 million chasing one crook which took two-and-a-half years to get him before the courts but it was worth it. It demonstrated that criminality wouldn’t be tolerated and will be chased to the very end,” Mr Glare said.
“Thousands of other police may be doing the right thing, but the community looks at those who do wrong and think the whole police force is rotten to the core.”
In January, a first constable from the Eastern Region was charged with firearm offences and in November a leading senior constable from the Western Region charged with sex crimes.
A number of officers have also been sentenced in the past year for criminal activity.
They include former superintendent Paul Rosenblum for unauthorised access of police information, Senior Constable Ross Fowler for recklessly causing injury, former sergeant Rosa Rossi for deception and perjury offences, and ex-sergeant Robert Beckingham for perjury and unauthorised access of police information.
Police Association secretary Wayne Gatt said incidents such as those on the weekend were concerning and could unfairly tarnish the reputation of the force’s “vast majority” of upstanding police officers.
“The task of making sure we strive to be the very best we can is something that requires constant focus,” Mr Gatt said.
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